13% Return on Investment in Birth-5 Programs: Economic Gains in Early Childhood Development

Research from Professor James Heckman shows that investing in high-quality birth-to-five programs for children can deliver a 13% per year return on investment.

Professor James Heckman is the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, a Nobel Memorial Prize winner in economics and an expert in the economics of human development. Through the university’s Center for the Economics of Human Development, he has conducted groundbreaking work with a consortium of economists, developmental psychologists, sociologists, statisticians and neuroscientists showing that quality early childhood development heavily influences health, economic and social outcomes for individuals and society at large. Heckman has shown that there are great economic gains to be had by investing in early childhood development.

“Professor Heckman and colleagues find a 13% return on investment for comprehensive, high-quality, birth-to-five early education. This research analyzes a wide variety of life outcomes, such as health, crime, income, IQ, schooling, and the increase in a mother’s income after returning to work due to childcare. ABC/CARE collected data on the participants throughout childhood and well into adulthood, allowing for an in-depth analysis of long-term effects in multiple dimensions of human development. This return on investment, representing high-quality, comprehensive programs from birth to five, is substantially higher than the 7-10% return previously established for preschool programs serving 3- to 4-year-olds.”

Click here to read more on Heckman’s research.

Dr. James Heckman, “Heckman Equation” García, Jorge Luis, James J. Heckman, Duncan Ermini Leaf, and María José Prados. “The Life-cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program.” (2016): n. pag. Web.—

Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation’s programs provide families and children with literacy resources and books to strengthen early literacy in Tennessee from cradle to career.

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